After a 30-point win over the North Carolina State Wolfpack, the Irish (12-3, 2-0), had to feel pretty good about themselves. However, they suffered another major blow when senior point guard Matt Farrell left the floor in the first half with a sprained left ankle and did not return. Already without senior forward and National Player of the Year candidate Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame was going to have its hands full when they traveled to the Carrier Dome to face Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange on Saturday afternoon.
Mike Brey started T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, D.J. Harvey, Austin Torres, and Martinas Geben against the Orange. The lineup was good in terms of its defense and rebounding, but not as much on the offensive end of the floor. In the first half, Notre Dame had eleven offensive rebounds to Syracuse’s three.
If you just looked at T.J. Gibbs stats in the opening half, you would think that Notre Dame was dominating Syracuse. Gibbs had 14 points and three rebounds, but the rest of the team only had five points, with the Irish shooting 20.7 percent from the field as a team.
Even though their offense was not scoring at the rate that they are accustomed to, they played tough defense thanks in part to the inside presence of Martinas Geben and Austin Torres. As for Syracuse, they were led by Tyus Battle, who had nine points in the first half.
Trailing 28-19 at the break, Mike Brey made changes to his lineup coming out of the locker room. Instead of starting Austin Torres, Mike Brey went with Elijah Burns in what I believe was for offensive purposes.
As it turned out, Mike Brey made a good decision. Notre Dame went on an 8-0 run to begin the second half and forcing Coach Boeheim to call a timeout.
Also, Notre Dame guards T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger had success driving in the paint more so than in the first half. As a result, the ball was able to find its way inside to big-men Martinas Geben, Austin Torres, and Elijah Burns for easy baskets. Also playing major minutes on the inside was sophomore forward John Mooney, who finished the game with 4 points and 2 rebounds.
When the game was close at the end, players who had experience on Notre Dame, such as T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, and Martinas Geben stepped up big on both ends of the floor.
To be able to capture a quality win at Syracuse without Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell while playing the defense they did has to be very encouraging to the team as well as head coach Mike Brey. Moving forward, however, Notre Dame must find a way to score the ball at a more efficient rate than they did today or wins will be hard to come by.
The Irish travel to Atlanta to face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Wednesday night at McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets are currently 7-7 overall with a game against the Yale Bulldogs tonight. Also, they are 1-1 in the ACC with a 68-59 loss at Notre Dame and a 64-54 win versus Miami.